The loss of a great forecaster

Forecasters around the world will mourn the loss of one of their finest following the death of Paul the Octopus at the age of 2 ½ (apparently an average age for Octopi). Although Paul had various threats to his life and insults to his mother’s honour he passed away from natural causes. Many forecasters envious of Paul’s record will look now a successor being groomed to take his place. Markets could do with Paul’s abilities in trying to ascertain the magnitude of Fed quantitative easing (QE) to be announced on 3 November. Conflicting comments from the Fed’s Hoenig (hawkish) and Dudley (dovish) yesterday will keep the market’s guessing.

Interestingly US bond yields are backing up and although yields elsewhere are also rising US yields are beginning to move relatively higher. The FX impact is evident in the growing resilience of the USD. Major Currencies with the highest correlations with bond yield differentials are EUR/USD, AUD/USD, EUR/CAD and USD/CHF although USD/JPY correlations have also been pushing higher. These currencies will ultimately suffer the most if US yields back up further.

Part of the reason for the shift higher in US bond yields is growing speculation that the Fed will take a more measured approach to asset purchases whilst recent data, particularly in the US housing market is showing some stabilisation as revealed in existing home sales data on Monday and a surprise gain in the August US FHFA home price index overnight. September new homes sales will be closely watched today to determine whether this stability is becoming broader based.

US consumer confidence continued this pattern, with the Conference Board index rising to 50.2 in October. Perhaps more interesting was the outcome of the US 5-year TIPS auction at a negative yield (-0.55%). The increased demand for inflation protection hints at QE2 working even before it has been carried out but there is a long way to go on this road and it would be premature to read too much into the auction outcome.

It’s worth noting that UK bond yields bucked the trend versus US bond yields following the release of stronger than expected UK GDP. The data alongside persistently above target inflation will likely dampen expectations that the Bank of England (BoE) will follow the path of the Fed into more QE. Consequently GBP has been a key outperformer. EUR/GBP in particular underwent a sharp reversal and technically the currency pair is showing a negative divergence from the 9-day RSI and the MACD is turning lower from overbought levels. The cross needs to drop below 0.8696 to confirm the technical signals.

Closer to home Australian CPI data this morning played into the hands of those looking for the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) to remain on hold next week. Although CPI was slightly softer than expected at 0.6% QoQ in Q3, the AUD took the news badly. The RBA has kept the cash rate on hold at 4.5% since May and at the last meeting there was little indication of an urgency to hike. Nonetheless, recent data plays towards a rate hike next week though the outcome is now a much closer call

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